Showing posts with label Kenneth Grahame. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kenneth Grahame. Show all posts

The White Poppy / Kenneth Grahame

A riot of scarlet on gold, the red poppy of our native fields tosses
heavy tresses with gipsy abandon; her sister of the sea-shore is
golden, a yellow blossom that loves the keen salt savour of the spray.
Of another hue is the poppy of history, of romance, of the muse. White
as the stark death-shroud, pallid as the cheeks of that queen of a
silent land whose temples she languorously crowns, ghost-like beside
her fuller-blooded kin, she droops dream-laden, Papaver somniferum,
the poppy of the magic juice of oblivion. In the royal plenitude of
summer, the scarlet blooms will sometimes seem but a red cry from
earth in memory of the many dews of battle that have drenched these
acres in years gone by, for little end but that these same ``bubbles
of blood'' might glow to-day; the yellow flower does but hint of the
gold that has dashed a thousand wrecks at her feet around these
shores: for happier suggestion we must turn to her of the pallid
petals, our white Lady of Consolation.

The Rural Pan / Kenneth Grahame

An April Essay

Through shady Throgmorton Street and about the vale of Cheapside the
restless Mercury is flitting, with furtive eye and voice a little
hoarse from bidding in the market. Further west, down classic
Piccadilly, moves the young Apollo, the lord of the unerring (satin)
bow; and nothing meaner than a frock-coat shall in these latter years
float round his perfect limbs. But remote in other haunts than these
the rural Pan is hiding, and piping the low, sweet strain that reaches
only the ears of a chosen few. And now that the year wearily turns and
stretches herself before the perfect waking, the god emboldened begins
to blow a clearer note.

The Romance of the Road / Kenneth Grahame

Among the many places of magic visited by Pantagruel and his company
during the progress of their famous voyage, few surpass that island
whose roads did literally ``go'' to places -- ``ou les chemins
cheminent, comme animaulx'': and would-be travellers, having inquired
of the road as to its destination, and received satisfactory reply,
``se guindans'' (as the old book hath it -- hoisting themselves up on)
``au chemin opportun, sans aultrement se poiner ou fatiguer, se
trouvoyent au lieu destiné.''

The Romance of the Rail / Kenneth Grahame

In these iron days of the dominance of steam, the crowning wrong that
is wrought us of furnace and piston-rod lies in their annihilation of
the steadfast mystery of the horizon, so that the imagination no
longer begins to work at the point where vision ceases. In happier
times, three hundred years ago, the seafarers from Bristol City looked
out from the prows of their vessels in the grey of the morning, and
wot not rightly whether the land they saw might be Jerusalem or
Madagascar, or if it were not North and South America. ``And there be
certaine flitting islands,'' says one, ``which have been oftentimes
seene, and when men approached near them they vanished.'' ``It may be
that the gulfs will wash us down,'' said Ulysses (thinking of what
Americans call the ``getting-off place''); ``it may be we shall touch
the Happy Isles.'' And so on, and so on; each with his special hope or
``wild surmise.''

The Fairy Wicket / Kenneth Grahame

From digging in the sandy, over-triturated soil of times historical,
all dotted with date and number and sign, how exquisite the relief in
turning to the dear days outside history -- yet not so very far off
neither for us nurslings of the northern sun -- when kindly beasts
would loiter to give counsel by the wayside, and a fortunate encounter
with one of the Good People was a surer path to Fortune and the Bride
than the best-worn stool that ever proved step-ladder to aspiring
youth. For then the Fairy Wicket stood everywhere ajar -- everywhere
and to each and all. ``Open, open, green hill!'' -- you needed no more
recondite sesame than that: and, whoever you were, you might have a
glimpse of the elfin dancers in the hall that is litten within by
neither sun nor moon; or catch at the white horse's bridle as the
Fairy Prince rode through. It has been closed now this many a year
(the fairies, always strong in the field, are excellent
wicket-keepers); and if it open at all, 'tis but for a moment's
mockery of the material generation that so deliberately turned its
back on the gap into Elf-Land -- that first stage to the Beyond.

The Eternal Whither / Kenneth Grahame

There was once an old cashier in some ancient City establishment,
whose practice was to spend his yearly holiday in relieving some
turnpike-man at his post, and performing all the duties appertaining
thereunto. This was vulgarly taken to be an instance of mere
mill-horse enslavement to his groove -- the reception of payments; and
it was spoken of both in mockery of all mill-horses and for the due
admonishment of others. And yet that clerk had discovered for himself
an unique method of seeing Life at its best, the flowing, hurrying,
travelling, marketing Life of the Highway; the life of bagman and
cart, of tinker, and pig-dealer, and all cheery creatures that drink
and chaffer together in the sun. He belonged, above all, to the scanty
class of clear-seeing persons who know both what they are good for and
what they really want. To know what you would like to do is one thing;
to go out boldly and do it is another -- and a rarer; and the sterile
fields about Hell-Gate are strewn with the corpses of those who would
an if they could.

Of Smoking / Kenneth Grahame

Concerning Cigarette Smoking: It hath been well observed by a certain
philosopher that this is a practice commendable enough, and pleasant
to indulge in, ``when you're not smoking''; wherein the whole
criticism of the cigarette is found, in a little room. Of the same
manner of thinking was one that I knew, who kept by him an ample case
bulging with cigarettes, to smoke while he was filling his pipe. Toys
they be verily, nugæ, and shadows of the substance. Serviceable,
nevertheless, as shadows sometimes be when the substance is
temporarily unattainable; as between the acts of a play, in the park,
or while dressing for dinner: that such moments may not be entirely
wasted. That cigarette, however, which is so prompt to appear after
dinner I would reprehend and ban and totally abolish: as enemy to that
diviner thing before which it should pale its ineffectual fires in
shame -- to wit, good drink, ``la dive bouteille''; except indeed when
the liquor be bad, as is sometimes known to happen. Then it may serve
in some sort as a sorry consolation. But to leave these airy
substitutes, and come to smoking.

Non Libri Sed Liberi / Kenneth Grahame

It will never be clear to the lay mind why the book-buyer buys books.
That it is not to read them is certain: the closest inspection always
fails to find him thus engaged. He will talk about them -- all night
if you let him -- wave his hand to them, shake his fist at them, shed
tears over them (in the small hours of the morning); but he will not
read them. Yet it would be rash to infer that he buys his books
without a remote intention of ever reading them. Most book lovers
start with the honest resolution that some day they will ``shut down
on'' this fatal practice. Then they purpose to themselves to enter
into their charmed circle, and close the gates of Paradise behind
them. Then will they read out of nothing but first editions; every day
shall be a debauch in large paper and tall copies; and crushed morocco
shall be familiar to their touch as buckram. Meanwhile, though, books
continue to flaunt their venal charms; it would be cowardice to shun
the fray. In fine, one buys and continues to buy; and the promised
Sabbath never comes.

Marginalia / Kenneth Grahame

American Hunt, in his suggestive ``Talks about Art,'' demands that the
child shall be encouraged -- or rather permitted, for the natural
child needs little encouragement -- to draw when- and whereon-soever
he can; for, says he, the child's scribbling on the margin of his
school-books is really worth more to him than all he gets out of them,
and indeed, ``to him the margin is the best part of all books, and he
finds in it the soothing influence of a clear sky in a landscape.''
Doubtless Sir Benjamin Backbite, though his was not an artist soul,
had some dim feeling of this mighty truth when he spoke of that new
quarto of his, in which ``a neat rivulet of text shall meander through
a meadow of margin'': boldly granting the margin to be of superior
importance to the print. This metaphor is pleasantly expanded in
Burton's ``Bookhunter'': wherein you read of certain folios with
``their majestic stream of central print overflowing into rivulets of
marginal notes, sedgy with citations.'' But the good Doctor leaves the
main stream for a backwater of error in inferring that the chief use
of margins is to be a parading-ground for notes and citations. As if
they had not absolute value in themselves, nor served a finer end! In
truth, Hunt's child was vastly the wiser man.

Loafing / Kenneth Grahame

When the golden Summer has rounded languidly to his close, when Autumn
has been carried forth in russet winding-sheet, then all good fellows
who look upon holidays as a chief end of life return from moor and
stream and begin to take stock of gains and losses. And the wisest,
realising that the time of action is over while that of reminiscence
has begun, realise too that the one is pregnant with greater pleasures
than the other -- that action, indeed, is only the means to an end of
reflection and appreciation. Wisest of all, the Loafer stands apart
supreme. For he, of one mind with the philosopher as to the end, goes
straight to it at once; and his happy summer has accordingly been
spent in those subjective pleasures of the mind whereof the others,
the men of muscle and peeled faces, are only just beginning to taste.

Justifiable Homicide / Kenneth Grahame

This is a remedial age, an age of keys for all manner of locks; so he
cannot be said to ask too much who seeks for exact information as to
how a young man ought, in justice to himself and to society, to deal
with his relations. During his minority he has lain entirely at their
mercy: has been their butt, their martyr, their drudge, their corpus
vile. Possessing all the sinews of war, this stiff-necked tribe has
consistently refused to ``part'': even for the provision of those
luxuries so much more necessary than necessities. Its members have
crammed their victim full of precepts, rules of conduct, moral maxims,
and most miscellaneous counsel: all which he intuitively suspected at
the time, and has ascertained by subsequent experience, to be utterly
worthless. Now, when their hour has come, when the tocsin has sounded
at last, and the Gaul is at the gate, they still appear to think that
the old condition of things is to go on; unconscious, apparently, of
atonement due, of retribution to be exacted, of wrongs to be avenged
and of insults to be wiped away!

Deus Terminus / Kenneth Grahame

The practical Roman, stern constructor of roads and codes, when he
needs must worship, loved a deity practical as himself; and in his
parcelling of the known world into plots, saying unto this man, Bide
here, and to that, Sit you down there, he could scarce fail to evolve
the god Terminus: visible witness of possession and dominion, type of
solid facts not to be quibbled away. We Romans of this latter day --
so hailed by others, or complacently christened by ourselves -- are
Roman in nothing more than in this; and, as much in the less tangible
realms of thought as in our solid acres, we are fain to set up the
statue which shall proclaim that so much country is explored, marked
out, allotted, and done with; that such and such ramblings and
excursions are practicable and permissible, and all else is exploded,
illegal, or absurd. And in this way we are left with naught but a
vague lingering tradition of the happier days before the advent of the
ruthless deity.

Cheap Knowledge / Kenneth Grahame

When at times it happens to me that I 'gin to be aweary of the sun,
and to find the fair apple of life dust and ashes at the core -- just
because, perhaps, I can't afford Melampus Brown's last volume of poems
in large paper, but must perforce condescend upon the two-and-sixpenny
edition for the million -- then I bring myself to a right temper by
recalling to memory a sight which now and again in old days would
touch the heart of me to a happier pulsation. In the long, dark winter
evenings, outside some shop window whose gaslight flared brightest
into the chilly street, I would see some lad -- sometimes even a girl
-- book in hand, heedless of cold and wet, of aching limbs and
straining eyes, careless of jostling passers-by, of rattle and turmoil
behind them and about, their happy spirits far in an enchanted world:
till the ruthless shopman turned out the gas and brought them rudely
back to the bitter reality of cramped legs and numbed fingers. ``My
brother!'' or ``My sister!'' I would cry inwardly, feeling the link
that bound us together. They possessed, for the hour, the two gifts
most precious to the student -- light and solitude: the true solitude
of the roaring street.

An Autumn Encounter / Kenneth Grahame

For yet another mile or two the hot dusty road runs through level
fields, till it reaches yonder shoulder of the downs, already golden
three-parts up with ripening corn. Thitherwards lies my inevitable
way; and now that home is almost in sight it seems hard that the last
part of the long day's sweltering and delightful tramp must needs be
haunted by that hateful speck, black on the effulgence of the slope.
Did I not know he was only a scarecrow, the thing might be in a way
companionable: a pleasant suggestive surmise, piquing curiosity,
gilding this last weary stage with some magic of expectancy. But I
passed close by him on my way out. Early as I was, he was already up
and doing, eager to introduce himself. He leered after me as I swung
down the road, -- mimicked my gait, as it seemed, in a most
uncalled-for way; and when I looked back, he was blowing derisive
kisses of farewell with his empty sleeve.

A Bohemian in Exile / Kenneth Grahame

A Reminiscence

When, many years ago now, the once potent and extensive kingdom of
Bohemia gradually dissolved and passed away, not a few historians were
found to chronicle its past glories; and some have gone on to tell the
fate of this or that once powerful chieftain who either donned the
swallow-tail and conformed or, proudly self-exiled, sought some quiet
retreat and died as he had lived, a Bohemian. But these were of the
princes of the land. To the people, the villeins, the common rank and
file, does no interest attach? Did they waste and pine, anæmic, in
thin, strange, unwonted air? Or sit at the table of the scornful and
learn, with Dante, how salt was alien bread? It is of one of those
faithful commons I would speak, narrating only ``the short and simple
annals of the poor.''

A Departure / Kenneth Grahame

It is a very fine thing to be a real Prince. There are points about a Pirate Chief, and to succeed to the Captaincy of a Robber Band is a truly magnificent thing. But to be an Heir has also about it something extremely captivating. Not only a long-lost heir--an heir of the melodrama, strutting into your hitherto unsuspected kingdom at just the right moment, loaded up with the consciousness of unguessed merit and of rights so long feloniously withheld--but even to be a common humdrum domestic heir is a profession to which few would refuse to be apprenticed. To step from leading-strings and restrictions and one glass of port after dinner, into property and liberty and due appreciation, saved up, polished and varnished, dusted and laid in lavender, all expressly for you--why, even the Princedom and the Robber Captaincy, when their anxieties and responsibilities are considered, have hardly more to offer.

The Reluctant Dragon / Kenneth Grahame

Footprints in the snow have been unfailing provokers of sentiment ever since snow was first a white wonder in this drab-coloured world of ours. In a poetry-book presented to one of us by an aunt, there was a poem by one Wordsworth in which they stood out strongly with a picture all to themselves, too--but we didn't think very highly either of the poem or the sentiment. Footprints in the sand, now, were quite another matter, and we grasped Crusoe's attitude of mind much more easily than Wordsworth's. Excitement and mystery, curiosity and suspense-- these were the only sentiments that tracks, whether in sand or in snow, were able to arouse in us.

A Saga of the Seas / Kenneth Grahame

It happened one day that some ladies came to call, who were not at all the sort I was used to. They suffered from a grievance, so far as I could gather, and the burden of their plaint was Man-- Men in general and Man in particular. (Though the words were but spoken, I could clearly discern the capital M in their acid utterance.)

Of course I was not present officially, so to speak. Down below, in my sub-world of chair-legs and hearthrugs and the undersides of sofas, I was working out my own floor-problems, while they babbled on far above my head, considering me as but a chair-leg, or even something lower in the scale. Yet I was listening hard all the time, with that respectful consideration one gives to all grown-up people's remarks, so long as one knows no better.

Its Walls Were as of Jasper / Kenneth Grahame

In the long winter evenings, when we had the picture-books out on the floor, and sprawled together over them with elbows deep in the hearth-rug, the first business to be gone through was the process of allotment. All the characters in the pictures had to be assigned and dealt out among us, according to seniority, as far as they would go. When once that had been satisfactorily completed, the story was allowed to proceed; and thereafter, in addition to the excitement of the plot, one always possessed a personal interest in some particular member of the cast, whose successes or rebuffs one took as so much private gain or loss.

The Magic Ring / Kenneth Grahame

Grown-up people really ought to be more careful. Among themselves it may seem but a small thing to give their word and take back their word. For them there are so many compensations. Life lies at their feet, a party-coloured india-rubber ball; they may kick it this way or kick it that, it turns up blue, yellow, or green, but always coloured and glistenning. Thus one sees it happen almost every day, and, with a jest and a laugh, the thing is over, and the disappointed one turns to fresh pleasure, lying ready to his hand. But with those who are below them, whose little globe is swayed by them, who rush to build star-pointing alhambras on their most casual word, they really ought to be more careful.

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